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ANC challenges Adler’s mobility bond

Monday, September 19, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

The Austin Neighborhoods Council has come out swinging against Mayor Steve Adler’s $720 million transportation bond package.

Last Tuesday, the ANC’s executive committee unanimously passed a resolution outlining an extensive list of concerns about the proposal and concluding with two calls for City Council to take action.

ANC President Mary Ingle sent the text of the resolution along with a letter to Council members on Friday.

The letter restates the resolution’s demand that Council address the enumerated concerns before the start of absentee voting on Oct. 24. Otherwise, Ingle said, the ANC executive committee will not “support, in good conscience, this Transportation Bond package.”

If approved, the bond proposal would raise taxes on the average homeowner by approximately $5 per month. The majority of the money would fund projects identified in six separate corridor improvement plans, while the rest is aimed at a grab bag of transportation upgrades from highways to sidewalks.

The resolution targets the hasty construction of the bond proposal itself, which debuted in June after Council had voted in February to ask staff to prepare it. According to staff, the typical bond development process takes 15 to 18 months.

The ANC resolution complains that the rushed process has not allowed for adequate analysis of how the bond proposal will fit in with CodeNEXT – the ongoing rewrite of the Land Development Code – and “Capital Metro’s Connect 2020 Master Plan,” an apparent reference to Connections 2025, which is the transit agency’s long-range service plan currently under consideration by its board of directors.

While Adler has promised that the investment along corridors such as East Riverside Drive, far North Lamar Boulevard and FM 969 will lead to the development of affordable housing options, the ANC’s resolution conjectures the opposite. It claims, “The improvements to the corridors are likely to facilitate displacement of low and moderate income families, expedite the elimination of single-family homes within ¼-mile of the corridors, and permanently alter the character of single-family neighborhoods adjacent to the corridors.”

The resolution also points out that the $420 $483 million earmarked for the corridors will fund only a fraction of the projects identified in the corridor plans themselves. In a June memorandum to Council, city staff estimated that the complete cost of the plans is $1.5 billion.

The resolution concludes with the ANC’s call for Council to address the group’s concerns and also to adopt a new policy that would explicitly protect single-family homes adjacent to the corridors.

Jim Wick, the head of the pro-bond political action committee Move Austin Forward, declined on Sunday to comment on the ANC’s resolution. Adler’s spokesman, Jason Stanford told the Monitor that they would be addressing the concerns raised in the resolution.

“The ANC has not taken a position against the mobility bond,” he wrote. “They’ve raised some questions, and we are confident that we’ll be able to answer them satisfactorily by their deadline, including how this bond meaningfully addresses traffic congestion.”

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This story has been corrected. The bond would impact East Riverside Drive, not North Riverside Drive, and the name of the pro-bond political action committee has been changed to Move Austin Forward, and is no longer “Get Austin Moving.”

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